HAMLET — The city promises twice the traditional spectacle for this year’s Fourth of July celebration, with the release of a two-year stash of glittery explosions.
And Ellerbe once again will go with the tried and true: watermelon grabs, three-legged races, and plenty of hot dogs, burgers and cool drinks.
“The City of Hamlet is looking forward to the biggest Fourth of July celebration that we have ever had,” City Manager Jonathan Blanton said Monday, guaranteeing “a safe, enjoyable and patriotic evening.”
Last year, officials aborted the celebration at the last minute, citing reports of possible reprisals for the shooting death of Tierrell Martin in late June. The cancellation became a go-to story for broadcasters outside Richmond County, who mentioned it most recently when Hamlet council members denied the police department the money for a gang/narcotics officer.
“The city has no greater priority than ensuring the safety of our attendees,” Blanton said, “and we are both confident and prepared to ensure that our Fourth of July event will be a great success.”
Hamlet’s free celebration will begin at 6 p.m. and end with the last “pop-pop-pop” of red, white and blue in the sky over town.
Activities will include temporary tattoos for kids, cornhole games and trivia contests, accompanied by guitar-strumming singer Jonathan Robinson, who organizer Stephanie Thornsbury said plays a little bit of everything. Cotton candy, Kona Ice and food truck fare will be available for purchase.
Main Street between the park and depot will be the spot to gather until 8 p.m., when the scramble for fireworks viewing spots will begin. Anywhere downtown is good for viewing, Thornsbury said, although the stretch of N.C. 38 near the fairgrounds will be closed off to keep people away from the launching of fireworks.
“We’ll actually have double the fireworks this year,” she said, because the contractor will bring along the equivalent of last year’s share, which the city paid for but didn’t use.
In Ellerbe, the local Lions Club will hold its event at Lions Park off Millstone Road, where contests of skill, barbecue and fireworks again will be the order of Independence Day.
Kids will be kept entertained and wet trying out three-legged and sack races, an egg toss and a free-throw contest, as well as the event that was the most messy and popular last year: trying to grab a soapy watermelon while beating back the spray from a fire hose.
Food vendors will sell cotton candy, snow cones and funnel cakes, organizer Kim Arnette said. The Rockingham Rescue Squad also will hawk hot dogs, corn dogs and burgers.
The park provides a number of spots for tailgating, as well as places to pitch canopies and relax in lawn chairs. Coolers will be inspected for alcohol — which is forbidden — but families may provide their own food and drinks.
Pets will not be allowed either.
Arnette recommends that those making a day of it bring hats and lawn chairs. A little overhead covering is a good idea, too.
“It never fails (that) we have some sort of rain shower during the day,” she said. If and when it comes, she said, she hopes it’s before the fireworks because having clouds of moisture in the air increases the sparkle and reflection.
Gates will open at noon. Festivities will begin at 2 p.m., and an opening ceremony — including the national anthem and presentation of Lion of the Year and Citizen of the Year awards — will begin at 4.
The band Eastern Sonrise will perform at 4:30 p.m., the Fabulous Boardwalk Band at 5:45 p.m. and Dark Horse at 7 p.m.
Cost is $5 for those 13 and older, and $3 for those 12 and younger.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]